Harry Brearley, stainless steel, Sheffield, Totley, secretary Winifred Beard
My permanent address, for the whole of my life, has been Totley Rise, so it's hardly surprising that I've always been interested in past as well as present residents. One always remembers 'characters' and I'm sure that we must sometimes bore friends as we repeat well-worn stories about them - I have often spotted the glazed look!
It has probably never been easier to access information about past notables thanks to the dedicated work of local historians. All of us can do our bit to help. You never know, your vital scrap of knowledge may solve a mystery. There is unlikely to be a free book in it, but you could warrant a footnote in history and that should give you a buzz!
Being born into a family in the cutlery trade, one may expect that the name of Harry Brearley would excite my curiosity. Now in 2010 we are on the countdown to Centennial celebrations of the discovery of stainless steel.
Firstly, articles will appear in 2012 about the successful tackling of problems concerned with the erosion and fouling of rifle barrels and the inner tubes of guns. Harry Brearley's name became a little better known a little later on. Once he had discovered and named stainless steel he wasted no time in telling his employers of his belief that given suitable treatment this material could be made to make cutlery. They did not believe him. He was very disappointed at their reaction, but trusted his own judgement. He began obtaining patents, starting a firm “Amalgams” with a friend, that led to the making of table knives by R.F.Mosley's. (The cutler who actually made them, on being told they would be rustless, replied, “Bloody likely, it'd be contrary to nature”.)
I would now like to introduce the lady without whom I should have no story to tell. I think many would agree that among those who are likely to know a person best could well be his secretary, so I'd better say a little about Winifred Beard.
She was born in Stroud in 1897 and came to live in “Moorland View”, Victoria Road, Totley in 1913. She was trained as a shorthand typist and went to work for Brown Bayley's, probably in that year. She spent all her working life there. Her work for Harry Brearley would most likely start around 1925. Auntie Wyn never married - she was engaged to my Uncle Arthur along the way, but nothing came of it! No doubt she went to work on the train (two shillings a week return, Dore to Attercliffe Road). She would use the short cut from Victoria Road - down through the wood and across Totley Brook into Colin Thompson's field and across the farmyard on to the Back Lane. Victoria Road residents paid a penny for this privilege. Wyn and her elder sister Nell, my wife Judy's mother, both helped as volunteers during the First World War at the V.A.D. hospital. This was in St. John's Church Rooms, now the G.P.O. sorting office.
Since this story is much concerned with Auntie Wyn and Brown Bayley's, I must include recently acquired information. The Beard girls had a younger brother, Reg, who was born in 1899 and died in 1995 in New Zealand. Reg came to Totley with the rest of the family in 1913 and went to Dronfield Grammar School until he was sixteen. He started work at Hadfield's in their laboratory and stayed until he joined up aged just over 17. He was soon sent to France, and was in the Royal Engineers' Gas Section. He was able to resume work at Hadfield's as soon as the war was over, and then very soon afterwards at Brown Bayley's in the Stainless Steel field. He stayed 11 years at Brown Bayley's and became a foreman in the stainless rolling mills, remembering names like R.F.Mosley (first makers of stainless steel cutlery) being stamped on products.
The Directors of Brown Bayley's, very ably led by Mr. Robert Armitage as Chairman of the company from 1895 until his death in 1944, thought highly of Harry Brearley. When Harry insisted on “retiring” in 1925 they gave him every encouragement to use the laboratory for his own purposes and Mr. Armitage had a splendid office, 30 feet square, built for him overlooking the works. The first class desk / bookcase now sits in our lounge. Drop down the desk top and you are faced by a printed American card, and encouraged to “Plan your work, then work your plan”.
Auntie Wyn operated from this office, and no doubt typed up the books that he later wrote. Her help is acknowledged inside the covers of her personal copies. “Steelmakers” (1933) says, “Miss Beard, with thanks fit for a king's remembrance”. His life story “Knotted String” (1941) says, “Winifred Beard from a grateful friend” and “Steelmaking” (1946) has, “Winifred Beard with enduring gratitude from Harry Brearley”. In “Knotted String” he pays tribute to Auntie Wyn, though not by name. He says, “My knowledge of women in industry is confined to the kitchen end of life, and an appreciation of a very competent secretary.”
I never met Mr. Brearley but my wife Judy did. It was on a Saturday morning in 1938 when she went down to Brown Bayley's with Auntie Wyn. Mr. Brearley gave her a copy of an allegory he had just written; I understand, for the daughter of a friend, about his discovery of stainless steel. It's called “The story of Ironie”.
Having the custody of a briefcase full of stuff, much of which concerns the man, the family and friends of Mr. Brearley, I must add my four penn'orth, in the hope that there will be lesser-known items of interest to entertain admirers of such a “character” and true son of Sheffield.
Anyone who is acquainted with the Northern General Hospital may well be able to recite the six names Firth, Hadfield, Vickers, Huntsman, Sorby and Brearley: all areas of the hospital named after notables in the history of the steel industry. I was recently a patient for a day or two and finished up in Brearley Ward 4. This grabbed my interest, and when an x-ray was needed, there was the lengthy wheelchair push between the two locations. I'm afraid I regaled my unfortunate porter with the useless information that I was happy to be in Brearley Ward and happened to have Harry's birth, marriage and death certificates! Fortunately I could not see the porter's face, but a voice from behind me simply said, “Oh yes?”
Harry Brearley's wife Helen was a private person and little mentioned in his writings, but she was his loving partner and number one supporter for nearly 47 years. She was born Ellen Theresa Crank in 1874 in Nottingham Street. Her father's occupation was recorded as a clerk and later on he became a coal dealer. When she married Harry he could not have been regarded as much of a “catch” because he was only earning £2 a week and had not long finished paying back £50 borrowed from a friend - this was to pay a premium for the privilege of introduction to the job of an assistant in the works lab.
They came to Brook Terrace, Mickley Lane, Totley (1895), almost penniless but much in love, and they were a practical couple. The first Saturday evening they had spent fourpence on a Chivers jelly tablet to make a special sweet for the Sunday dinner, but they had nibbled most of it before it could be made into a jelly! A friend had just given them a wedding present of twenty shillings, saving a difficult situation but they were not afraid, Helen said, “Perfect love casteth out fear”. Once, in the Cogging Mill, where there had been a prolonged strike, endless meetings had not settled the matter. It was decided to give a whole day to discussing outstanding issues. The meeting was on a Sunday at the Brearleys. Because of rationing, meat was not obtainable, so Mrs. Brearley made two large sage and onion pies and a very big rice pudding. The morning discussions went badly, but after the sage and onion pies things went much better, agreement was reached and relations became much better all round - the Sage and Onion Pie Agreement was long remembered!
Auntie Wyn had been Mr. Brearley's secretary from about 1925. But a few years later he had a problem, hence his wife's letter:
“Mr. Brearley says he is going to adjust his comings to Sheffield so that the stress of work there and the two journeys won't be too fatiguing. It would add to his comfort if you came down to Torquay when necessary & save a journey at times. As you & I haven't met, although I feel I know you, don't you think it would be nice if you could spend a week with us, say this next Friday? I am quite a simple person, not a bit clever, but I think we might have things in common & I am so often grateful to you for looking so well after Mr. Brearley.
With kind wishes
I have no doubt that Wyn would go down to Torquay and believe such visits recurred from time to time.
In late February 1948, just a few months before he died, Mr. Brearley was recovering from an illness and they were seeking a way of adjusting their lives to some sort of comfortable living. They asked Wyn if she would consider going to live with them and Mrs Brearley asked her to let them know “Honest and true”. This was a request that she gracefully declined without upsetting them. They both understood, and sent their love.
Two years later, when Auntie Wyn was preparing to start looking after her father when he moved to Millhouses from Stroud, Mrs. Brearley wrote and said, “I'm venturing to send you something I prize & would like you to have to greet your coming to the new home. R.L. Stevenson has meant a lot to me since the days I was homesick in Riga & Colin Moorwood introduced me to him. 'Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind.' ” It's a book of prayers written when Stevenson was in Samoa, I believe. Inside the cover is inscribed “Elmwood 1910”. I have just discovered that the Brearleys lived in this house in Old Whittington, Chesterfield.
This prompted me to ask my daughter Ruth to pursue Brearley connections with Chesterfield. We found that in addition to Brearley Park we have a Road, an Avenue and a Street bearing the family name. I wonder whether Harry was commuting from Chesterfield when he made his stainless discovery in 1913?
We have a copy of a notice advertising for sale by auction in 1929 a substantial property in three acres of ground at Walton. This must have been around the time that the Brearleys took up permanent residence in Torquay.
We know that Mr. Brearley was on excellent terms with the Chairman, Managing Director and others at Chesterfield Tube Works, where he had been welcomed as a visitor for several years. He learned that Firth's had bought a large block of the Tube Works' shares and had two of their directors on the Board and were using the company's facilities in every way to make stainless steel tubes. He was therefore surprised to receive increasingly pressing invitations from the Tube Works to visit their place to see what was being done.
Brown Bayley's had been given an order for stainless steel, to be followed by larger orders and Harry learned that it worked up into good tubes. Mr. Brearley was finally asked to see an extensive exhibit of stainless steel tubes made from material supplied by Firth's. He agreed, provided he was not asked to inform the steelmakers should their material prove faulty. Harry's nous and expertise soon found that the root of the trouble was in the steel-making, and their responsibility. This led to Mr. Brearley's appointment as consulting metallurgist to the Tube Works, and incidentally a later working connection with Brown Bayley's, based on mutual respect and helpfulness.
The Brearleys' only child was named Leo Taylor Brearley, born at Totley in 1896. We know that Harry was soon in trouble with the School Board when it was found that Leo had not been sent to school. No doubt Harry thought that he would be able to make a better job of his education. In “Knotted String” he admitted that he “went over the top” about the matter, but noted that Leo had to appear before a magistrate for neglecting his own son's schooling!
Harry tells of going for a walk round Stocksbridge with his son Leo and calling to see his uncle George. George wanted to know why Leo had been given the second name Taylor. Harry explained that it was the name of someone who had helped and encouraged him when he started work in the chemical laboratory as a boy. Uncle George then told them a story, said to be true (Ed. but see Matthew Brearley's letter about this story at the end of the article), that sounds remarkably reminiscent of Hardy's “Mayor of Casterbridge”. A lady called Mrs.Taylor was being knocked about in Penistone Market by her husband, and George's grandfather gave the man a good hiding and then “took on” this lady for a payment of five shillings. They lived together for many years but never married - so the illegitimate children of this union should have been called Taylor, not Brearley! One of these children was Harry's father.
Mr. Brearley always kept in touch with Leo, and on 1st January 1929 sent him an extremely long letter - his life story. Much of this formed the basis of his autobiography,“Knotted String”, published in 1941. The 1929 letter was re-published in 1989 by British Steel Stainless, in conjunction with Kelham Island Industrial Museum as “Harry Brearley - Stainless Pioneer”. All the notes had been uncovered by Harry's grandson Basil, then living in Australia.
Some of the little that I know of Leo Brearley is gleaned from Australian Victorian Railways newsletters of 1949. He was 18 at the start of the Great War and went in the navy and became a member of a naval brigade attempting to defend Antwerp. This effort proved hopeless, and he escaped to Holland and was interned. He escaped as a stowaway in a merchant ship and got back to England but was not fit for further war service. We know that he spent time in various places abroad, including Russia and South Africa, probably before emigrating to Australia.
For railway buffs, Leo was an engineer of outstanding ability and largely responsible for the introduction of “Bescom” steel in rolling stock construction. He had a very responsible job as “Engineer of Tests” on the Victorian Railways for seven years before retiring in 1934 when his eyes were badly affected. He was a generous and well-respected man with wide interests, and well informed and keenly observant.
Leo had five children and it may be that they all stayed in Australia. I note that when his mother Helen died, she left £1,000 to St. Dunstan's. Leo died in 1945, aged 49. He was born at the bottom of Victoria Road, Totley and died in Victoria, Australia.
Mr. Brearley turned his hand to writing about the art of making tool steel in his book “Steelmakers” (1933). He produced a work that is a good read, even for those of us who may find technical stuff boring. At least 35 recipients of a gift of a copy of his latest book sent letters of thanks and appreciation. The letters have been put together and attractively bound in a material that looks like parchment. They have been carefully copied with the sender's name and full address, and where appropriate the name of the company for whom they worked. The first entry is a telegram from Sandringham nr. Melbourne and says, “Have read book with eager enjoyment, best book you have written. Can I have six more copies? – Leo”.
One delighted recipient was probably a peripatetic teacher at Berkhamstead, Stowe and Rugby schools, and finds it exactly what he wanted as a textbook for his boys. He was reading the book on the train and thought the people in his compartment were rather startled to hear a man reading a book entitled “Steelmakers” laughing as though he was reading the latest by Wodehouse. He goes on, “Actually I think yours much superior to 'Sturt', even”.
Slater Willis says, “I must say how very heartily I have enjoyed your humour, philosophy, and sanity”. Ronnie Steel says, “Please accept the thanks of a humble learner in the steel trade to one of its leaders”. One interesting, possibly telling, letter from Lewis Firth, a director of the Firth-Sterling Steel Co. in Pittsburgh reads in part:
“The copy of your book “Steelmakers” was very welcome and I have enjoyed reading it. I am reminded of the old days at Norfolk Works - it is sixty years in November (1874) since I first took up my work there and began to make things a little more cheerful for my worthy uncles. It was three years later before I was supposed to be earning forty pounds a year. I asked Mark Firth for a rise after twelve months and hesaid “No”, so I spoke to Henry Firth a little later, and he authorised me to draw fifty pounds. The following year he told me to take sixty. As one grows older, many things which had passed from memory seem to come back again and cheer one up - don't you find it so?”
In 1946 Mr. Brearley decided it was time to clear out his office at Brown Bayley's. He wrote to his secretary with instructions, beginning as follows, “When I am in travelling condition and there are good reasons for coming to Sheffield you may see me again in my office, but when I am gathered to my fathers I should like you to accept the toys and tools I have used there to dispose of as you please. I think no one will dispute your decision about what pieces of furniture are mine. The technical books might be offered to B.B., also the picture over the mantelpiece. It might be left where it is as a memento of the busy and happy times which led R.A. to build my office. The Bessemer Medal - let no man have it who lusts for its gold. You are free to do whatever seems to you at the time to be best. (The eventual recipient of this precious award was not decided in his lifetime, and was willed by Mrs. Brearley to Ronald Brearley, a relative who was probably in Australia.)
The Stainless Steel papers, mostly concerned with disputes, are history or psychology on the wing. There is in them a record of what effort it cost me to secure and protect a right in Stainless Steel for B.B's. I don't care whether the papers are preserved or destroyed.
The Ink Blots are mine, the Wax Ingots are as much my brother's as mine - both are remnants of a curiosity we cultivated together before we came to B.B's. Any profits arising from published books, rights of translation etc. are to be yours. I hope these requests and bequests will not lead you into trouble.
With many thanks & good wishes for what you will be doing, and apologies for what I have left undone.
I am, yours gratefully
The Ink Blots mentioned were a selection kept from ten thousand examples of blotting paper that had absorbed various writing inks. Some of the patterns were beautiful and remained fresh for many years. The hobbies of bubble-blowing and ink blot making, in addition to having fun, resulted in writing to popular magazines and giving lectures to a score of local societies with a usual fee of half a guinea.
Long after his death, there is a letter written in 1970 from a German firm and addressed to Mr. Brearley at Brown Bayley's, and concerns royalties due to him. A cheque was enclosed and the letter says, “The original attempt to pay was requisitioned by the English Military Occupation Authorities”. A pencil note on this document says, “Paid to W.M.Beard”. The published books referred to are three technical ones, plus the more recent efforts written in retirement.
About 80 years ago, on the advice of his son Leo, Mr. Brearley made a complete break from all work, and spent a year out in Australia and South Africa. He made a bonfire of a card index system so that he could forget technical reading, future plans and engagements. He came back refreshed, but still in love with the infinite variety of interest wrapped up in steelmaking – that he viewed as a pastime and a pleasure. Maybe that was the time he started thinking seriously about what was to be his parting gift, setting up a charitable foundation. He does say that a few men, all in the steel trade, used to meet regularly for lunch and got to talking about how to operate and support ideas which were likely to make life more bearable, cheerful and attractive for workers in humdrum jobs. No doubt many such people would be known to them in this area.
He listed aims like making opportunities for people to read and possess good books, to see good pictures and plays and to hear good music, and to be active in providing such opportunities. He also would subscribe to any local or other charities, and grant donations for any useful public purposes. As late as May 1941, a few months before the trust was set up, Mr. Brearley set down his gathered thoughts. He headed the aims “Bear ye one another's burdens”, and underneath, “The Burden Fund”. He had decided who he would like to have with him as the first governors of “The Freshgate Trust Foundation”. They were all people from Brown Bayley's. There were four directors plus two metallurgists, and his secretary. Three of the governors lived in Totley Rise. (I knew Mrs. Bull, the wife of Harry Bull senior, one of the governors, and often wondered whether their daughter Barbara was the little girl he had in mind when he wrote his story for children, beginning “Dear Barbara”. My dear wife Judy says “pure speculation!”) To show his own commitment he gave £20,000 at once as a nucleus of the Fund. In his will, after making provision for his widow, he left the residue of his estate to the Fund. Mrs. Brearley made similar arrangements in her will.
About six years after “Freshgate” came into being, Mr. Brearley was anxious that decisions made in the running of the organisation should be as good as possible. He evidently thought that being human, mistakes might be made! He asked his secretary if she would consider being a contact, an eye, and someone at liberty to find out for the governors if decisions they had made were up to scratch! I recently asked my friend Mike if it was possible to access any details about the present state of this Charitable Trust, and he soon produced seven pages of information to confirm that the organisation is still in good fettle after 70 years, and mindful of the original intentions of Harry Brearley. The focus of the work is on Education (including travel and training), Medical (psychological and physical), Recreation (including holidays), Music and the Arts, Welfare and Social Care and Heritage. About a third of its income is distributed to local groups and two thirds is open to applications.
There is a letter, written by Wyn Beard on 1st January 1971 to Mr K.T. Rowland at 65 St. Vincent Square, London SW1. This was the address of the Stainless Steel Development Association. They were preparing a piece for publication on the centenary of Harry Brearley's birth, 18th February 1871. Wyn said that she had been retired for nine years and was not his secretary around discovery time, and was not authorised to deal with Mr Brearley's dealings with Brown Bayley's regarding the time that he worked for them.
She did offer to lend any relevant publications: “Knotted String”, “Talks about Steelmaking”, “The Story of Ironie” and Harry Brearley's technical books. The SSDA's subsequent press release gives details of his life story and writings. The article pays tribute to the former “street Arab” (his own words) who laid the foundations of the British stainless steel industry, whose products are now used in every branch of modern technology.
The Cutlers' Company had also lent for exhibition examples of the first stainless steel knives ever made. There were also samples of wax moulds, several notebooks and copies of articles in Sheffield papers. There was even the Bullnose Morris radiator cover belonging to Dr. W.H. Hatfield, Harry Brearley's successor at the Brown-Firth Research Laboratories: probably the first car in the world to be trimmed in stainless steel.
I have a Sheffield-made sheath knife that has an engraved plate on its leather handle that reads “Harry Brearley from G.T. Antarctica 1911”. G.T. was Griffith Taylor, a New Zealander friend who was a geologist on Scott's last expedition. I was told that Mr. Brearley had given the knife to G.T. before he went on the expedition. When I received the knife it looked neglected, with a little rust here and there, so I asked a cutler friend to clean it up. It came back polished, and the maker's name had been ground out. I obviously had not warned him of the care needed in treating potential antiques!
In 1939 Harry Brearley, along with Leonard Hedley Burrows, first Bishop of Sheffield Diocese and Sir Robert Hadfield, was given the Freedom of Sheffield. I should like to print in full Harry Brearley's speech of acceptance of the honour (printed as Appendix A) because it gives me a tingle! If there is such a thing as a “Brearley” flavour, it is to be found in his remarkable affinity with ordinary workers in industry, whose skill and experience and help he never failed to acknowledge.
Auntie Wyn was an executor of Harry Brearley, along with J.W. Garton, Chairman of Brown Bayley's. Mrs Brearley's will of 1951 had as her executors Barclays Bank, John W. Garton and Winifred M. Beard. There is a codicil to Mrs. Brearley's will of 1953 that reads: (a) To my friend, Miss Winifred Beard, all my personal clothing, table linen, and my old oak rocking chair. (b) To my daughter-in-law, Mrs. Dorothy Brearley, of Avondale St., Hampton, Victoria, Australia, my Russian Ikon.
Auntie Wyn died on Christmas Eve 1978. When Judy and I were sorting her belongings, I was surprised to find two fur coats!! Now there's a thing!!
When I wrote the piece about the sheath knife I thought that was the end of the story …. not quite! Anne has just posted a photo of the knife on the sheffieldhistory.co.uk forum and one of the administrators on there posted a link to this photo of Griffith Taylor, taken on the Scott Antarctic Expedition. The knife on his belt is surely the one that he returned to Harry on his return from Down Under.
My Lord Mayor, My Lord Bishop, Ladies & Gentlemen,
I feel that I have every reason today to be a proud man, but I am not a comfortable one; and I am not likely to be until I am through with this attempt to do the impossible: to say, “Thank you” in a satisfying way. If my tongue could speak the feelings of my heart I should be satisfied, but it cannot. This is a moment when I would give something to be at ease and eloquent for five minutes. A few weeks since I asked the Lord Mayor what it would be fitting to say on this occasion; and he, kind man, said, “Tell them some of the things about yourself you have been telling me.” And I will, because they are also things about Sheffield.
I am a Sheffielder; but I am a Sheffielder in more than the conventional sense. I might, of course, have been born anywhere; but I doubt if I could have grown up anywhere else as I did in Sheffield. Let me explain: I was born in a back-yard house off Spital Hill, with a living room ten feet square, occupied by my father and mother and eight children. My playground was the Sheffield streets, and if I describe myself as a Street Arab it is not much of an exaggeration - as there was not room for all of us indoors; and my mother did other people's washing as well as looked after her own family! This is a staggering thought for me; she was a wonderful woman and I have a feeling this casket ought to be hers.
As a child I was sent to Holy Trinity Church School, behind the Wicker. Perhaps you don't think much of “behind the Wicker” as a school district: I didn't. But for a small boy who wants to see how things are done, and who is not literally compelled into school it was a regular Tom Tidler's ground. Later I went to the Board School in Woodside Lane. I have only vague impressions of either place as a school, but I have the liveliest impressions of the journeyings to and fro. At the bottom of Champs Hill, where now stands a grain warehouse, there was a cluster of workshops cutting files and grinding them and forging table or pocket blades. I can see my small boyish face poking its nose through the barred window frames, asking the workman for a forged pocket blade which might be rubbed into sharpness on the doorstep, and spitting on my fingers before I touched it for fear he had given me a hot one.
I knew in those days, with school looming at the end of the journey, that it was better to travel than to arrive; and whereas in Longfellow's 'Village Blacksmith' it is the children coming home from school who look in at the open door, I found it easier to do my to looking-in and loitering by the open door as I was going to school.
Of course I paid the usual penalty for being regularly late but my conscience, if I had a conscience, did not upbraid me. I feel now that if I had been disciplined by a careless hand into a nice obedient schoolboy I should have been damaged; and I have grown to be a firm believer in St. Paul's injunction – “Quench not the Spirit”. So the first thing I have to thank Sheffield for is that I was not bludgeoned into being a scholar: there are otherways.
I left school when I was barely eleven, and earned odd coppers in various ways. The job I liked best was taking workmen's suppers to the large East-end Works, and by this time I lived not far away in Carlisle Street. In those days a boy carrying his father's dinner or supper walked straight into the works without hindrance; without even waiting for a nod of recognition or assent from the gate-keeper. When the supper-carrier came out of the Works was his business; and in this way I spent hundreds of hours in the works before I worked there for wages. But I should add that it was not necessary to have a father, or to have anything whatever in the breakfast can or dinner basket to get past the gate-keeper into the Works: something tied up in a parcel to look like food and carried convincingly, was a sufficient passport.
When I began to work for wages there was nothing strange in the surroundings of the steelworks; I was quite at home and happy. The only thing I did not like were the long hours and the obligation to do as I was told; since that time I have often been occupied in evading one or other of these dislikes. When I was twelve years old the Factory Regulations turned me out of the melting furnaces, and my father had about made up his mind that I was not going to be strong enough to make a steel melter. This was disappointing. But I happened almost at once to get a job as bottle washer in a chemical laboratory, and there I learned what some people find it hard to believe – that delicate glassware and porcelain do come to bits in your hands.
The chemist was James Taylor, a man who had been as poor and forlorn a boy as I was. There are a few names a fond memory and a grateful heart sees inscribed with my own on this casket: one of them is James Taylor. Under his care and encouragement I was born again. He taught me how to get knowledge from books; he taught me how to think for myself; he taught me how to do difficult things with my hands, and in time, from his example and others I came to speak book English, and get a glimpse of the Arts and Graces of Life. I should say that my native speech is the Dialect, and I still speak it when I get a chance; but until I met James Taylor I spoke nothing else.
When in due time I came to occupy an elevated position in the works I had known best as a boy; when my job was to know what was happening where I was not present; and when I needed many pairs of eyes and hands, I found men whose suppers I had taken and men who had known me as a cellar-lad, all willing to be observers and share with me their own particular experience. No man, living or dead, doing the work I have tried to do, is so indebted as I am to workmen who have horny hands and grimy fists. The kindness they did me came from the goodness of their hearts; but it may sometimes have come from the thought that I was one of them, as indeed I was: and I like to think that I am still acceptable to them. Wherever my head may be, the roots of my life and my heart are in the works amongst the men who are doing things.
I have been described in the newspaper as “a self-made man”. If that is intended to say that my forbears were working blacksmiths beating wrought iron on the anvil into useful shapes, and steel-melters with trained eyes and skilled judgement doing laborious work for a bare livelihood, it is true enough. But if it means that by some miracle I have grown up independent of help and encouragement and care from others, then such words have nothing to do with me.
I have told you these things about myself because I want to claim before you to be Sheffield made, “both Haft and Blade” as the saying is. I have told them also because I should like you to realise that I am one amongst many, and as the recipient of this bewildering honour I represent others. And that is why I desire to feel sufficiently grateful to the few men and women who have taken care of me, and to the hundreds of men in the works who have been my confederates.
And now I should like to thank you my Lord Mayor, and the Aldermen and Councillors and the people of Sheffield whom you represent, for the Honour you have conferred on me. These are feeble words, but if I had the tongue of men and of angels, and I could speak jewelled words fit for a King's Ransom, they would mean, when all was said, what I mean when I say, “Thank you”.
SHEFFIELD June 6th 1939
In 1974 I cut out of the Observer Magazine an article and pictures on “Scott's last journey”. The story was about Tryggve Gran, a Norwegian, and one of only three remaining survivors of Scott's last expedition. The particular interest for me was Gran's connection with Griffith Taylor, the geologist whose picture we have, resplendent in Antarctic gear and including the “Harry Brearley” knife stuck in his belt.
Gran, as a Norwegian, was worried that he might be asked to go with Scott to the Pole because of awareness that there could be competition with Amundsen, a fellow countryman. Scott allowed Gran to go on a subsidiary expedition with Griffith Taylor to the Western Mountains.
There is another well-known photograph taken when the “Terra Nova” was held in pack ice, showing three men aloft in the rigging. One of the men is Gran and the others are Charles Wright, physician, and Griffith Taylor the geologist.
Matthew Brearley has contacted us with information to add to Bill Glossop's article about Harry Brearley.
This is what Matthew says..........
I have read Mr Glossop's article about Harry Brearley with interest. Harry Brearley's Great, Great Grandfather, Benjamin Brearley is my Great, Great, Great, Great, Grandfather and I am afraid Uncle George's tale about a woman called Taylor has no foundation. Benjamin was indeed married twice but the wife who bore Harry Brearley's Great, Grandfather, (George's Grandfather) was Lydia Holmes and was married to Benjamin. So Harry Brearley was a Brearley and the name Taylor was never a factor in his ancestry.
Paul Wise writes....
I have just read with interest the article on Harry Brearley and wish to clarify some of the detail /questions posed?
My Mother who died a couple of years ago was Barbara Brearley Wise (nee Bull). She was the daughter of George Henry (Harry) Bull and Nellie Bull who are mentioned in the article. Harry Brearley was her God Father and wrote "ironie" for her to explain the story of stainless steel. I also have her copy of the story, which my mother always referred to as the original. As a christening present my mother received a teak child's chair carved with the motif B Brearley B. My grandchildren are now using it when they visit.
My Grandfather was from a similar background and worked with Harry Brearley in the labs at Firth Brown and then at Brown Bayleys . He was also became Chairman and Managing Director of BBs after HB retired and set up Amalgams with Him. My Father Graham Wise was born and raised in Totley, the son of William Wise who lived on The Quadrant. William Wise was also in the steel industry working for Jessops. My Father started work at Brown Bayleys, but moved over to Exors of James Mills (GKN) near Stockport in about 1955. Later in his career he became Group Managing Director of Edgar Allen, back in Sheffield prior to their takeover by Aurora.
Because of the continuing need for measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, the monthly meetings of Totley History Group have been suspended until further notice.
Please continue to support your history group by sending us your questions, comments and contributions.
A few copies are still available of Sally Goldsmith's book Thirteen Acres: John Ruskin and the Totley Communists. Totley was the site of a utopian scheme funded by art critic and social reformer John Ruskin. In 1877 he bought 13-acre St. George’s Farm so that nine Sheffield working men and their families could work the land and, to keep themselves busy, make boots and shoes. Sally tells an engaging story from our history with a quirky cast of characters including Ruskin himself, the poet and gay rights activist Edward Carpenter and Henry Swan, a cycling, vegetarian artist and Quaker. The book is available to order online from the The Guild of St. George by following this link.
A recently discovered box of WWII correspondence reveals the story of how a small group of ladies from Dore and Totley recruited knitters from the west of Sheffield and how their efforts made them the country's greatest provider of Comforts for the Minesweeping crews of the Royal Navy. The story is told in Knit For Victory, a new book from Totley History Group. Written by Pauline Burnett, it has 82 pages and many illustrations. It is on sale in local shops and via our website.
Since 1875 when there was only a Rolling Mill and Chemical Yard alongside the river a mile from Totley, the area has changed beyond anyone's imagination This book by Pauline Burnett tells the story of how it was named and grew into the community we know today. The Rise of Totley Rise has 94 pages including a useful index and is profusely illustrated throughout with many previously unpublished photographs from private collections.
The story is told in Totley War Memorial WW1 of the ten men from our village who gave their lives in the Great War. Written by Pauline Burnett, Jim Martin and Dorothy Prosser, a chapter is devoted to each of the soldiers with a family tree followed by as much information as could be discovered about the men and their families. There is also information about their military careers and the actions in which they lost their lives. The book has 64 pages and is illustrated throughout with photographs of the men, their families and the houses where they lived.
This picture postcard was addressed to Miss Abell, Holly Dene, Totley Brook Road and posted in Rotherham on 10 December 1907. Edith Annie Abell was born on 4 February 1887 in Sheffield and her family came to live in our area in the 1900s, staying for the rest of their lives.
Charles Herbert Nunn enlisted in the British Army on 23 August 1915 and was sent to France on 18 December 1915 to served with the British Expeditionary Force. In March 1916 it was discovered that he was underage and he was returned home. Shortly after his 18th birthday he re-enlisted and was again posted abroad where, in addition to this trio of medals, he was awarded the Military Medal.
This certificate was awarded jointly by the Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance to Isaac Henry Williams, of Lemont Road, for his services during WW1 as a stretcher bearer. We are seeking anyone who can help us pass it on to a living relative.
In 1832 Samuel Dean pleaded guilty to stealing a quantity of lead from the Totley Rolling Mill and was sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. He sailed on the Mangles and upon arrival in New South Wales he was sent to work for William Cox, the famous English explorer and pioneer. After receiving his Certificate of Freedom in 1840, Samuel became a farmer and went on to have a very large family. Samuel was born in Whitechapel around 1811 to parents Samuel Dean Snr. and Susannah Duck. His descendant Sarah Dean would like help in tracing his ancestry.
Ellen Topham was born in 1889 in Nottingham. Her parents had been living together since 1862 but had never married so it was most unusual that, after their deaths, Ellen was accepted into Cherrytree Orphanage. Even more so since her father, Snowden Topham, had been acquitted somewhat unexpectedly in a widely reported manslaughter trial. Ellen remained at Cherrytree until her death from pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of 15.
Mabel Wilkes was a resident in Cherrytree Orphanage between 1897 and 1905. Her granddaughter Sally Knights sent us these images of a book presented to Mabel as a prize for her writing. Sally also sent us some personal memories of her grandmother and a photograph of a locket which contains portraits of Mabel and her husband Septimus Gale.
John Henry Manby Keighley was living at Avenue Farm when he enlisted in 1916. He fought in France with the Cheshire Regiment but after home leave in early 1918 he went missing. The Army were unable to determine whether he had deserted or returned to the front and been either killed or captured by the enemy. In August 1919 he was formally presumed killed in action but it appears he did not die but returned home to his family.
Horace Ford was admitted to Cherrytree Orphanage on 26 October 1888 at the age of six. He left at the age of 14 to become an apprentice blacksmith and farrier. Soon after his 18th birthday Horace enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry to serve his country in the war in South Africa. His letter home to his Orphanage mentor tells of the lucky escape he had in battle.
Pat Skidmore (née Sampy) lived on Totley Brook Road from 1932 to 1948 before her family moved to Main Avenue. In this short article she remembers her time at Totley All Saints School where she was a contemporary of Eric Renshaw and Bob Carr.
As we have nowhere to exhibit memorabilia and artifacts, we have created a Virtual Museum instead. The latest addition to our collection is this double-sided Totley Rise Post Office oval illuminated sign which was on the wall of 67 Baslow Road before the Post Office business transferred to number 71. Please contact us by email if you have things that you own and would like to see added to the virtual museum.
Conway Plumbe was a man of many talents who came to live in Totley Rise around 1912. As a young man he had poems published by Punch magazine and is remembered in modern collections of WW1 poetry. A number of his paintings were accepted by the Royal Academy. An engineering graduate of London University, he joined the Civil Service where he rose to a high level as a factory inspector, publishing two books on the subject and giving a series of talks on workplace health and safety on BBC radio during WW2. In retirement he wrote a philosophical-spiritual work called Release From Time.
Inside Totley Rise Methodist Church there is a Roll of Honour commemorating the soldiers from its congregation who served their king and country during the Great War. For all but one of the 28 names the soldier's regiment is recorded in the next column. The exception is David Cockshott for whom 'killed in action' is written alongside yet he appears on no war memorial in our area and no record of a mortally wounded soldier of that name is to be found. We think we have solved the mystery.
Mrs. Kate Plumbe moved from Mansfield to Totley Rise with a number of her family in 1913 and became closely involved with the Totley Union Church. Her daughter Winifred became a missionary and headmistress in Calcutta for over 38 years following which she returned home to live with her sister Hilda on Furniss Avenue. Hilda had also been a teacher, missionary and, like her mother, a volunteer at St. John's VAD during WW1.
Thomas Glossop was a cutler and razor manufacturer who was well known amongst cricketing and gardening circles. Despite going blind, he was able to continue his hobbies with remarkable success
The Totley Union Cycling Society Prize Giving and Fete was held on the fields near Abbeydale Hall on 18 July 1914. Anne Rafferty and Gordon Wainwright have named some of the people in two wonderful photographs of the event. Can you identify any more for us?
The Tyzack family are well known in our area for owning iron and steel trades at Walk Mill, Abbeydale Works, Totley Rolling Mill and Totley Forge. This article covers the history of the family from the late 18th century when William Tyzack the founder of the company was born until the early 20th century when Joshua Tyzack farmed at Avenue Farm, Dore.
Walter Waller Marrison moved to Totley around 1897 with his wife and their two young sons. He was a house builder who constructed properties around Totley Brook and Greenoak before ill health forced him to take up less physically demanding work. In 1904 he took over the tenancy of the grocers and off licence at number 71 Baslow Road. After his death in 1908, his widow Kate and later their eldest son Jack continued to run the business until it was sold in 1934.
Ron Wijk of Nieuw-Vennep in the Netherlands has sent us two scanned images of drawings of old cottages made by the celebrated Dutch painter, Anton Pieck (1895-1987) simply annotated "Totley", and wondered whether we could identify their locations.
We would like to thank Christopher Rodgers for bringing to our attention this fascinating log of the 85th Sheffield (St. John's and Totley Orphanage) Wolf Cub Pack for 1927-45. The log is published jointly by Sheffield Scout Archives and Totley History Group as a free PDF download. It is illustrated by no fewer than 92 photographs and is supported by a comprehensive index and biographies of some of the main participants.
Following our Open Meeting event on School Days, Roger Hart, Howard Adams and John Timperley have each written to us with their memories of Norwood School, which was located in the rooms attached to the Dore & Totley United Reformed Church on Totley Brook Road.
On 22nd July 1909 the children of Dore and Totley Schools celebrated by a pageant the union of England under King Ecgbert which took place at Dore in AD 827. The pageant was devised and written by Mrs Sarah Milner and her daughter Marjorie and performed in a field close to Avenue Farm in front of a large audience. Photographs of the event survive together with a fragment of the script.
John Edward Greenwood Pinder had lived all 46 years of his life in Totley but on census night, Sunday 2 April 1911, he was not at home; he was in Derby Gaol serving a sentence of three months hard labour. From the age of 20, John had been in and out of local courts for a series of minor offences including drunkenness, assault, wilful damage and night poaching. Finally he was sent to gaol for cutting down and stealing 86 small trees which he sold in Sheffield market for Christmas.
We have already transcribed the census returns for Totley, Totley Rise and Dore. Now we have transcribed Census Strays. These are people who were born in Totley but are missing from our earlier transcriptions. They may have been living, working or studying elsewhere or just away from home on the night the census was taken. Two people were in prison. Others were in Union Workhouses, hospitals and asylums. Fully indexed strays from the 1851, 1861, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses are available now.
We wish to thank Gillian Walker for allowing us to digitize an archive of material about the 1st Totley Scout Group. Most of the material was collected by Arthur Percival Birley in the period 1949-51 and there are many interesting documents pertaining to the building of the scout hut on Totley Hall Lane. In addition four Newsletters survive, two from the 1940s and two from 1971.
We are grateful to Angela Waite and All Saints' Parish Church for giving us access to baptismal and kindergarten birthday rolls dating from 1926 to 1941. We have transcribed the names, addresses, birthdates and baptismal dates and created an alphabetical index of entries for you to search.
Edmund Sanderson, a Sheffield estate agent, aquired the land on either side of the old drive to Totley Grove in 1874 and divided it into plots for development. He called it the Totley Brook Estate. But before many houses were built, the estate road was severed in two by the building of the Dore & Chinley Railway line. The eastern end of the road became the cul-de-sac we now call Grove Road.
John Roberts was born in Sheffield in 1798. He became a partner in one of the leading silversmiths firms in the city before moving to Abbeydale Park in 1851 and extending the house in Victorian gothic style. He paid for the building of St. John's Church and was believed to dispense more in charity than any other person in the neighbourhood including his protege Ebenezer Hall.
The Coke Family owned the Totley Hall Estate from 1791 to 1881. With the aid of a family tree to guide us, Josie Dunsmore takes us through the story of their tenure.
When the Rev. D'Ewes Coke inherited the Totley Hall Estate in 1791 it had two farms. Josie Dunsmore tells the story of how the two farms were combined under the tenancy of Peter Flint with the aid of field maps drawn by Flint himself and later by the Fairbanks family.
Do you think you recognize this face? More than sixty photographs of the girls and teachers at Hurlfield Grammar School for Girls in the 1940s were given to Totley History Group by Avril Critchley, who was herself a student at the school. The collection includes fifteen form photographs from June 1949. There would have been a number of girls from the Totley area attending the school in those days.
Christine Weaving tells the story of her 2 x great uncle George Edward Hukin, a Totley razor-grinder, and his life-long friendship with the academic, poet, writer, and free-thinker Edward Carpenter.
Eric Renshaw (pictured here on the right with Bob Carr) grew up and lived in Totley from 1932 to 1960. Many of his memories are of a sporting nature.
We are very grateful to Gordon Grayson for giving us this splendid sale document for the Norton Hall Estates, following the death in 1850 of Samuel Shore. The estates included a large part of Totley and the document has maps and illustrations, plus schedules of land and property with the names of tenants. We have also added a transcription of the entries for Totley and Dore.
Watch this Youtube video of the talk given by Dr. Mark Frost and Sally Goldsmith on Ruskin, Totley and St. George's Farm. The talk was hosted by Totley History Group on 20th May 2015 as part of the Ruskin in Sheffield programme. Also enjoy a video of the outdoor performance Boots, Fresh Air & Ginger Beer written by Sally.
When Jacqueline A. Gibbons became interested in what made her father tick, it began a journey through WW1 archive records and led to her flying from Toronto to visit the house and village where he lived and the countryside that he so much enjoyed. Jacqueline reminds us that in the early 20th century Sheffield was a driving force of industry and that Totley was the place where many of its remarkable people lived and where they formulated their ideas.
Edgar Wood was the designer of The Dingle, 172 Prospect Road, built in 1904 for Rev. William Blackshaw, the founder of the Croft House Settlement. The house, together with its western terrace and boundary walls, has now been awarded Grade II listed building status.
What was probably "the most perfect little garden railway in existence" in 1910 was to be found in the grounds of Brook House, Grove Road, the home of its designer and constructor, Guy Mitchell. Look at some wonderful photographs and read reports in newspapers and a full appreciation in Model Railways magazine.
We have now completed our transcription of Totley School's Admission Records for the period from 1877 to 1914. There is also a useful index to the names of the scholars and to their parents or guardians. We are very grateful to Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library for allowing us to transcribe and publish these records and for permission to reproduce the photograph of a specimen page of the register.
On 8, 9 and 11 November 2014 Totley History Group held an exhibition at Dore & Totley United Reformed Church to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Below are additional links to some of the photographs we were lent and stories we researched especially for the exhibition.
Oscar Creswick was a local farmer who served with the Army Service Corps in Salonika and who after the war returned to Totley to become the innkeeper of the Cricket Inn and a member of the village's successful tug of war team.
Walter Evans was a market gardener who also ran a small grocery shop on Hillfoot Road when war broke out. He fought with the Machine Gun Corps at the fourth battle of Ypres. After the war, Walter ran a grocers shop at the top of Main Avenue.
Fred Cartwright was another Totley soldier who survived the Great War. He fought in France and Belgium and although he wasn't wounded he was gassed and was home on sick leave when his daughter was delivered by Nurse Jessop during a snowstorm in January 1917.
Maurice Johnson joined the Yorkshire Dragoons, a territorial unit, on 1 Jan 1914 and so was called up at the very start of the war. He fought throughout the war on the Somme, at Ypres and at Cambrai. After demobilization in 1919 Maurice returned to his old occupation in the steel industry.
Bill Glossop lent us a letter written by his father, William Walton Glossop to his wife describing life in the army during training in the north east of England and asking her to keep him in mind with the children.
The photo above provides a link to an album of photographs taken of WW1 Hospitals at St. John's, Abbeydale and the Longshaw Estate.
Nora Green, of Chapel Lane, was only 14 when war broke out. In 1914 she was ill with diphtheria and was sent to the isolation hospital at Holmley Lane, Dronfield. Nora recovered and wrote a letter of thanks to one of the hospital staff and the reply she received survives.
We have collected together on this page the names of local men who appear on various War Memorials and Rolls of Honour in Totley, Dore, Abbeydale, Norton, Holmesfield and Dronfield.
Unfortunately we were unable to identify all the photographs we were lent of Totley Soldiers. Please take a look at this album to see if you recognize any of the missing names.
This walk visits locations that have strong associations with Totley during the First World War. It includes the homes of the ten soldiers from the village who lost their lives, the auxiliary hospitals, war memorials, and even the rifle range on which the soldiers trained. Take a look at the first draft of a new walk by the authors of "Totley War Memorial WW1 1914-1918"
We wish to thank the Trustees of Cherrytree for giving us permission to publish transcriptions of the Cherrytree Orphanage Admissions Book entries for the years 1866-1929. There is also an alphabetical index for you to look at.
Our transcriptions of local trade directories have been expanded to cover the 95 years from 1837-1932 and have also been indexed. From the days when there were a handful of farmers, stone masons, saw handle makers & scythe grinders to the wonders of the Totley Bridge Garage Company, Betty's Boudoir and The Heatherfield Shopping Centre.
Totley Church of England Parish Magazines for the years 1922-1939 and 1948-1967 with notices of births, marriages and deaths and accounts of spiritual, educational, charitable and social matters in the village.
Around 90 photographs taken by Stuart Greenhoff for his thesis A Geographical Study of Dore and Totley including several of Totley Moor Brickworks. Superb!
Chronologically ordered snippets of information recorded by Brian Edwards during his many years of research into our local history.
Read the inscriptions on more than 700 gravestones in the churchyard.
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